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MUNGO MacCALLUM. Malcolm Turnbull and those thirty Newspolls.

In just under three weeks time, unless either there is a major miracle or The Australian imposes censorship, Malcolm Turnbull will confront his 30th successive losing Newspoll.  So what happens then? Actually, not much. As Christopher Pyne has pointed out with the unarguable logic of arithmetic, our Prime Minister still has the numbers. When Tony Abbott hit the same target in 2015, he did not, and there is the difference.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

BILL ROWLINGS. TPP-11 still flawed, costly for most Australians.

The trade deal known as TPP delivers financial benefits to some 100,000 people in agricultural and farming enterprises, paid for by extra imposts on the purchases of many millions of urban Australians. In future, every time an Australian buys an app, pays to listen to music, gets a prescription from the chemist, does banking, he or she will be subsiding rural and corporate interests to the detriment of the average Aussie Jo… because of the TPP. Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 5 Comments

PETER SAINSBURY. US Republicans advocate (smoke and black holes) plan on climate change.

Eight prominent US Republicans are advocating that the Republican Party should lead action on climate change by introducing a carbon tax, with distribution of the revenue raised to all Americans (a Carbon Dividend). While this may move the debate forward in the USA, the plan is parochial, blind to the range of environmental issues threatening the world, and seeks to maintain current economic and social power structures in the USA and globally. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 1 Comment

JIM COOMBS. The Italian Election: Traditional “Right and Left” parties losing out and elsewhere (except perhaps in Britain) What is going on? The people are asking “What is government for?”

Well, Italy! The usual mess, or something else? Five Star mid 30%, Northern League next, low 30s, with Berlusconi next, but not a sufficient force. 5 Star is nearly anarchist, with “direct democracy” in its platform, and distinct distrust of the Old System.  Northern League a little nostalgic for Mussolini certainty.  The vast majority of voters don’t trust what has gone before. So what does it all mean? Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 1 Comment

ROSS GWYTHER. Our nuclear chickens come home to roost

Popular TV personality Mike Higgins addressed a packed Brisbane City Hall gathering on a rainy November night in 1983.  As chair of the meeting he was joined on the podium by later-to-be Governor General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, retired US Army colonel David Hackworth, Anglican Dean Butters, the president of the Qld Trades Hall council Harry Haunschild, famous Aboriginal writer Oodgeroo Noonuccul, and others.  Convened by the newly formed People for Nuclear Disarmament, the meeting foreshadowed one of the largest and most active mass movements in Australian history – the nuclear disarmament movement of the 1980s and 90s. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | Leave a comment

LESLEY RUSSELL. Ending the medical / dental divide (redux).

In a piece published in the Medical Journal of Australia in December 2014, I called for an end to the artificial medical/dental divide. At the same time, writing in The Conversation, I outlined six first steps towards the better integration of dental and medical care to improve health outcomes and contain overall health care spending. My thoughts then are applicable today, especially in light of additional data and information that has emerged over the past three years. Continue reading

Posted in Health | Leave a comment

SAMANTHA HEPBURN. Why aren’t Australia’s environment laws preventing widespread land clearing?

Australia has national environment laws – the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Yet given the staggering rates of land clearing taking place, resulting in the extinction and endangerment of plants and animals in Australia, these laws are clearly not working.

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Posted in Environment and climate | Leave a comment


On Eureka Street Fatima Measham interviews Clare O’Neil, Federal Member for Hotham and Labor Shadow Minister for Justice. O’Neil explains how our economy is failing most people: the benefits of economic growth are not being shared. She explains the idea of inclusive growth, (Audio 27 minutes)

Writing in the Fairfax Press, Jessica Irvine outlines the findings of a survey on younger (aged 16 to 40) women’s attitudes to work – a survey released in time for International Women’s Day. Being “treated with respect”, job security, good pay and interesting and socially useful work are all ranked highly. The full report is available from the Australian Women’s Working Futures Project at the University of Sydney.

Also on women’s work experiences, on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics program Andrew West talks with Sister of Mercy Dr Margaret Beirne about the life of nuns with aspirations to help the poor as teachers, doctors or social workers. But many end up “cooking dinner, scrubbing floors and ironing shirts” for cardinals. Sister Beime suggests that because an article on this issue appeared in an official Vatican magazine this issue may be of concern to the Pope. (Audio 12 minutes).

South Korea has brokered a meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump to take place by May. Writing in The Atlantic Uri Friedman takes is into the political background to this meeting. Although the meeting has taken the world by surprise, North Korea’s strategy follows a familiar pattern.

“Beware the green dragon, not the red one” writes Crispin Hull in the Canberra Times.  China’s plan for a renewable energy future will see it achieve moral and economic leadership. Hull warns that “it is disturbing to see the democracies allow a totalitarian state take leadership on the greatest threat to peace and prosperity – climate change”.

A guest on the ABC’s Late Night Live last week was Professor Geoffrey Robinson of the University of California, LA. He reminds us of Indonesia’s “anti-communist” purge in in the mid 1960s, in which the army, with help from religious groups, and possibly parties outside Indonesia, arranged for the slaughter of half a million people. Presenter Elizabeth Jackson reminds is that it’s one crime against humanity that’s been largely overlooked. (Audio 20 minutes)

You have probably read Mungo MacCallum’s Pearls and Irritations piece on the power of the pokie industry. If you would like to support pokie-free hotels there is a website Pokie Free Pubs. You can follow the links to your state to find a list of pubs without pokies. The site is still under development: it has long lists of pokie-free pubs in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT. The New South Wales entry is a little clunky, the South Australian and Northern Territory entries are “coming soon”, and of course there is no need for a list in Western Australia – all pubs are pokie free.

From a frontline clinician:  here’s what’s wrong with private health insurance.

On Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue this 10th March, trouble in Ethiopia, the African continent’s second most populous and strategically important country with Awol Allo professor of law at Keele University and Ahmed Soliman, Chatham House; Andrew Hughes from the ANU research school of management on political advertising outside campaign time; North Kore and the US to meet, what’s it all about with Dr Leonid Petrov, visiting fellow at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific; the future of the National Party with Jack Archer, CEO of the Regional Australia Institute, Gabrielle Chan, author of a forthcoming book on regional Australian attitudes and John Daley CEO of the Grattan; former NZ Prime Minister Bill English on challenges facing Australia and New Zealand and historian Ian Tyrell, an environmental take on the history of Sydney’s Cook River.

Posted in Links | Leave a comment

How and why New Zealand withdrew or was forced from ANZUS in 1985.

In Foreign Policy Analysis in 2010, Amy L. Catalinac reviewed the events that led to New Zealand withdrawal from ANZUS and the reasons for it.  She said:

In 1985, a dispute over nuclear ship visits led the United States to formally suspend its security guarantee to New Zealand under the trilateral ANZUS Treaty. In this article, I conceptualize this dispute as a case of intra-alliance opposition by a small state toward its stronger ally. I generate four hypotheses from the literature on alliances in international relations to explain why New Zealand chose to oppose its ally on the nuclear ships issue. Using new evidence, including interviews with 22 individuals involved in the dispute and content analysis of debates in the New Zealand parliament from 1976 to 1984, I conclude that a desire for greater autonomy in foreign policy was the driving factor behind New Zealand’s opposition.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

GRAHAM FREUDENBERG. American Malaise and Malice.

The key to the Trump presidency is its malice. Trump daily mocks Lincoln’s noble intent: “with malice toward none”. There is now not a country or region in the world untouched by Trumpite malice, defined as the irrational desire to do harm or mischief, fuelled by a sense of imaginary grievances.Australia cannot expect to be exempt.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs, Politics | 4 Comments

SCOTT BURCHILL. What is going wrong and how did we get here?

Despite the temptations of presentism and intemperate thinking, the forces which have brought us to the current political malaise have been around for some time.

The ideological convergence of the major parties in our two party system has been underway for over four decades. Its most unfortunate consequence is that voters are robbed of meaningful policy choices in key areas which concern them:  the threat of terrorism, national security and defence, surveillance laws, foreign policy, immigration and asylum seekers. This is the serious negative effect of bipartisanship.  Continue reading

Posted in Media, Politics | 6 Comments

ROB STEWART. Mal and Scotty’s Excellent Company Tax Cut Adventure.

The Government’s full proposed company tax cuts package may eventually pass the Senate. If it does this will not be due to any “inevitability” or natural law of diminishing company tax revenue. And the tax cuts will not result in a win for “average hard working Australians.” Income and wealth inequality will continue to rise.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 1 Comment

ROSS GITTINS. If governments don’t get this message they will be tossed out.

A highlight of our trip to New York after Christmas was a visit to the Tenement Museum down on the lower east side, where the movie Gangs of New York was set. It was the area where successive waves of Irish, German and Russian immigrants first settled, crowded into tenements. We were taken around the corner to see inside a tenement building restored to its original condition.  As we climbed the back stairs, we were shown a row of dunnies and a water tap in the backyard. This, we were told, was one of the first tenements required to have outside toilets and running water under a new city ordinance.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy | 2 Comments

BILL ROWLINGS. Pilgrim passages, tatters returns.

‘Open and transparent’ could scarcely be claimed as the style of Australian executive and bureaucratic rule. But even by our poor standards, the saga of the Office of the Information Commissioner has been a disaster of huge proportions. Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. Afghanistan – the graveyard of empires and the opium poppy.

They have all failed to conquer Afghanistan – the Greeks, Indians and more recently, the British in the mid 19th Century and the Soviets in the late 20th Century. And now the US empire is failing to subdue the tribes of Afghanistan despite enormous cost of people and treasure. What has not received much attention is that the Taliban depends very heavily on the opium trade which finds its market in the US and other developed countries. That opium trade determines what happens in Afghanistan and not military intervention.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

JOHN MENADUE   The impotent and the pure!

In the Batman bi election the Greens have correctly directed criticism at the cruel policies of the ALP and the Coalition on refugees in Manus and Nauru.But the Greens do not have clean hands either.   Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Politics, Refugees, Immigration | 11 Comments

NIALL McLAREN. ECT (electroconvulsive treatment) as high cost medicine in Australia.

Recent articles by John Menadue on health costs in Australia have emphasised the high fees charged by private procedural medical specialists. In a paper to be published next month (McLaren, N., “ECT in Context,” Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, April 2018), I examine costs associated with the use of ECT (electroconvulsive treatment) in psychiatry. This is a short version of that paper.   Continue reading

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

TREVOR COBBOLD. The Arms Race Between Elite Sydney Private Schools is Fuelled by Govt Over-Funding.

New figures show that the arms race in ostentatious facilities between elite private schools in Sydney is being fuelled by more than $170 million a year in government over-funding. Over-funding frees up private income from hefty fees and donations to finance opulent buildings and facilities in competition with other elite schools. It denies much needed resources for disadvantaged schools facing severe shortages in teaching staff, educational materials and modern classroom buildings.  Continue reading

Posted in Education, Politics | 2 Comments

How liberals can reclaim nationalism.

In this article in the New York Times International Edition of 5 March 2018 Yascha Mounk argues that ‘instead of exhorting their fellow citizens to live out their nations highest ideals, many activists seem content with denouncing past and present injustices.. This has enabled the bigots and racists to bend the meaning of the nation to their own sinister ends’.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

HYLDA ROLFE. Summer of our disconnect .

Hurrah-words don’t disguise the reality of the steady creep of business into our National Parks. When a world-status Park is involved, all sorts of phoney justifications for commercial incursions are trotted out. The pity of it is that so many of them emanate from within the Gamekeepers’ compound. But repetition does not generate conviction, and the natives are becoming restless.   Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 1 Comment

MICHAEL LAMBERT. Revisiting the South Australian Electricity Market.

In the context of the current South Australian election campaign, it is opportune to revisit the state of play with the South Australian electricity market which in 2016 and 2017 was used at the national level as an ill-informed or, perhaps more accurately, a misinformed argument about renewable energy and climate change policy. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 1 Comment

JOHN WARHURST. Demystifying the Coalition

The downfall of Barnaby Joyce and his replacement by Michael McCormack from Wagga Wagga as Nationals leader shows once again that maintaining the Liberal-National coalition has a considerable impact on the nation, and thus it deserves greater attention and transparency. Instead it is clouded in secrecy and often taken for granted. Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

BEN LUCAS. Revealed: the extent of job-swapping between public servants and fossil fuel lobbyists.

Last month Australia slipped further down the rankings in the international corruption index. Among a wide range of factors cited by Transparency International was Australia’s “inappropriate industry lobbying in large-scale projects such as mining”, as well as “revolving doors and a culture of mateship”. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | Leave a comment

Michael Lambert: Trump’s Steel and Aluminium Tariffs

President Trump has foreshadowed tariffs of 25% on all imported steel and 10% on all imported aluminium, reversing America’s historic commitment to free trade and proper governance in trade policy. It is also repeating an action taken by George W Bush in 2002 which completely failed and was reversed in 2003. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 1 Comment

PAUL BARRATT. Are all those consultancies really necessary?

The Joint Committee on Public Accounts and Audit is currently conducting an inquiry based on any items, matters or circumstances connected with Auditor-General’s Report No. 19 (2017-18). This report reveals enormous expenditure on consultancy contracts, and the matters being inquired into by JCPAA include the effects on APS capability and capacity; the extent to which consultancy contracts are being used to deliver core APS outcomes; the associated benefits and risks; and unforeseen and unintended consequences.  Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 6 Comments

CATHERINE KING AND ANDREW LEIGH. It’s no wonder we’re questioning the value of private health care.

Australians are questioning the cost and value of private health more than ever. Continue reading

Posted in Health, Politics | 3 Comments


Bill Shorten has finally taken a firm position on the Adani coal mine: procrastination. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate, Politics | 8 Comments

STEPHEN LEEDER. Two roads converge in a yellow wood

Two roads converge in a yellow wood when it comes to preventing obesity – blaming the victim (eat less sugar, exercise more, you lazy sloth) and thinking that if we focus on children all will be well.  Follow either and you will end up in the same sulphurous place – lost. Continue reading

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

ALLAN PATIENCE. Time to inject some realism into the China debate.

A rising chorus can be heard in Australia voicing fears about China’s alleged intrusions into our domestic affairs. There are disturbing echoes in all this of a narrative about a dangerous China lurking in the interstices of Australia’s society and economy. These echoes need top be addressed before we can have an intelligent debate about how to respond to China’s re-emergence as a great power and how our foreign policy can be revised to prevent Australia being drawn into great power rivalries in the Asia Pacific. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

HENRY REYNOLDS. Where Was The Governor-General?

Sir Peter Cosgrove was not in Canberra last week to swear in the new leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime-Minister. As far as I am aware there was no official explanation for his absence. But it turned out that he was on a ‘secret’ visit to Iraq to visit the 300 Australian troops at an airbase just outside Baghdad. Secrecy may have been necessary for reasons of security but it also had the advantage of avoiding the questions which the electorate has a right to ask. What are our soldiers doing there now that ISIS had been defeated? Will they be coming home? And If not why not? The Governor-General, though nominally the Commander in Chief, provided little enlightenment in his brief reported comments. One thing is certainly clear. The soldiers are not coming home soon. Indeed Australia is putting pressure on New Zealand to delay the departure of its contingent of 100 troops planned for November this year. Cosgrove himself remarked that no-one would have foreseen in 2003 that Australia would still be in Iraq fifteen years later. There is clearly no end in sight to our Middle-Eastern adventure. 

Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments